The United States says it will impose new economic sanctions on North Korea for using a lethal chemical nerve agent in last year's assassination of the estranged half-brother of leader Kim Jong Un.
The U.S. State Department announced Tuesday that it has determined that Pyongyang used the banned VX nerve agent to kill Kim Jong Nam on February 13, 2017 as he walked through Kuala Lumpur's International Airport. Two women were caught on airport security cameras spraying a liquid in Kim's face. He died just minutes later.
"This public display of contempt for universal norms against chemical weapons use further demonstrates the reckless nature of North Korea and underscores that we cannot afford to tolerate a North Korean WMD (weapons of mass destruction) program of any kind," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a written statement. The statement did not explain how the department reached its conclusion.
The United States will impose a new set of economic sanctions against Pyongyang for carrying out Kim Jong Un's brother, but they will likely make little, if any, impact as North Korea is already under severe sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Two women, 25-year-old Indonesian Siti Aisyah and 28-year-old Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, are on trial for Kim Jong Nam's murder. The women claim they were tricked by North Korean agents who told them they were taking part in a prank television show.
Kim Jong Nam was estranged from Kim Jong Un. He reportedly fell out of favor with their father, the late Kim Jong Il, in 2001, when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport to visit the Disneyland theme park in Tokyo.
North Korea is believed to have a large stockpile of chemical weapons. A leaked United Nations report says Pyongyang has supplied forces under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with chemical weapons equipment and expertise.